Are all Delhi Government schools and hospitals as good as claimed by AAP ?

There are 1000 Government schools in Delhi and 1,700 private schools. Some of the Government schools are indeed show stoppers but is everything really as rosy as claimed or shown in advertisements ?

School of Excellence, Kalkaji
School of Excellence, Kalkaji
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S Khurram Raza

When former US President Donald Trump visited Delhi in February, 2020, FLOTUS or the First Lady was taken to visit a Delhi Government school. A year earlier in 2019 the Delhi Government had announced an allocation of Rupees nine thousand Crore for smart classrooms in government schools.

With smart boards, digital labs, happiness classes and teachers sent abroad for training, government schools in Delhi never seemed to have had it so good. Advertisements flooded newspapers and TV channels with a beaming chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and school education minister Manish Sisodia in classrooms or outside impressive school buildings.

There are however more private schools in Delhi than government schools. Delhi Government sources say there are around 1000 government schools and 1,700 private schools in Delhi. And a whopping Rs 16,137 Crore have been allocated for school education for the year 2021-22. In comparison, Bihar with six times higher population has allocated approximately Rs 32,000 Crore for school education in the current year, half of it as Centrally Sponsored Schemes.

Most independent observers agree that 20-25 government schools in Delhi can compare with some of the better private schools. But have all government schools in Delhi improved under AAP? The jury is still out.

A recent tweet by Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, however, set the cat among the pigeons. “It is for the first time in the country that more than two lakh students from private schools have enrolled themselves in Delhi Government Schools,” in the past few years, he claimed.

A former minister at both the Centre and in Delhi Ajay Maken on September 13 dared the chief minister to come out with the actual figures by next morning. The next day he tweeted a graph that showed a sharp rise in the enrollment of private schools and a corresponding decline in enrollment in government schools. Over the next 24 hours he contested the chief minister’s claim with several other graphs.

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A majority of people in Delhi and outside, concedes Maken, believe that Delhi’s public health and public school education systems are among the best in the country. But that is because of the advertisement blitz by the Delhi Government which has created an alternate reality. The ground reality, he maintains, is different.

The myth around the public health system in Delhi, he points out, was shattered during the second wave of the pandemic. As if corroborating Maken’s stand, a video went viral this week in which an old man laments that he has to travel to a charitable hospital for treatment. “If I could be treated in the Mohalla Clinic, why would I be here,” he asks.

“During the second wave, even diplomatic missions were requesting the Indian Youth Congress and its President for oxygen cylinders. The affluent preferred to go to private hospitals while citizens dreaded going to government facilities,” recalls an incensed Maken.

While two new hospitals were inaugurated by Kejriwal in the last seven years, at least one of which was sanctioned by the government headed by late Sheila Dikshit, a third hospital in Dwarka is said to be under construction.

There seems to be substance in Maken’s contention that the AAP Government ensures favourable publicity by advertising lavishly. Indeed, a plain reading of budget provisions of the Delhi Government over the past seven years indicates the Information & Publicity Department having spent Rs 997 Crore on advertisements.

Had AAP Government’s record been as stellar as claimed in its advertisements, taunted Maken, why did the victory margin of Manish Sisodia shrink by nine times in the last assembly election.

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Delhi chief minister’s tweet, says Maken, was clever and believable because the pandemic had led to people losing their jobs and many people having to accept lower salary. On the face of it, the CM’s claim that 200,000 students of private schools had switched to government schools, therefore, would have looked plausible.

But, Maken insists, it was a lie. In 2019 more students were studying in Delhi’s private schools than in government schools ( 16.61 lakhs in private schools compared to 16.47 in government schools).

In 2013, four lakh more students than the number in private schools were enrolled in government schools, he claimed. “ Isn’t it true that before 2013 the enrollment was increasing in government schools but the trend was reversed after AAP took over,” Maken tweeted. Once again there was no response from the Delhi CM or the Government. The declining trend in government schools is despite the increase in population and the recession in the economy even before the pandemic hit India.

“The record and quality of schools are judged by results in Board examinations,” and in this area also the pass percentage in government schools has shown a declining trend,” he contends.

While 1.47 lakh students passed from Delhi Government schools in 2013-14, the number came down to 1.09 lakhs in 2020.

People of Delhi, who voted Kejriwal to power on the promise of free water and free electricity, says Maken, seem to be paying a price. This year they have had a first hand encounter with public health, public schools and waterlogging.

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